Posts tagged “Harley”

Get our latest article, Ships in the Night (Part I): Design Without Research?

Harley-Davidson President and CEO Jim Ziemer, Harley-Davidson Annual Report, 2007

My latest interactions column, Ships in the Night (Part I): Design Without Research? has just been published.

While user-research-eschewing Apple is everyone’s poster child for “design for yourself,” I find Harley-Davidson to be a more compelling example (although I may be comparing Apple(s) and oranges). At Harley, Willie G. Davidson is the grandson of the original Davidson. Senior vice president and chief styling officer, he is known as Willie G. And he looks exactly like a guy who rides a Harley: big, bearded, and leather-clad. If we judge a bike by its fairing, the designer is the customer. That’s part of the Harley brand: In a recent Harley-Davidson annual report, executives appear next to their bikes, and we know that they all ride. A crucial part of Willie G.’s role is to preserve the legacy of the brand; the company communicates that it is (and always has been) part of the culture for which it’s designing. People at Harley, we believe, use the products and live the lifestyle. But underneath it all is a sense that Harley-Davidson, through its history, has created the brand (i.e., the products and their meaning) in partnership with its customers. For all the tribal connectedness Apple has facilitated, the company itself is not a participant. It is a benefactor.

Get a PDF of the article here. To receive a copy of the article, send an email to steve AT portigal DOT com and (if you haven’t given us this info before) tell us your name, organization, and title. We’ll send you a PDF.

Related: Steve Portigal speaks at User Research Friday – Design and Research, Ships in the Night?

Update: Ships in the Night (Part II): Research Without Design? is now available

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ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Harley-Davidson: You Can File Our Obituary Where The Sun Don't Shine – Passionate and 100% on-brand response to rumblings about Harley not making it through 2009. Seen as full-page ad in today's New York Times and presumably elsewhere
  • Very slight story on how and why we use lines from movies in regular conversation – It also turns out that using movie quotes in everyday conversation is akin to telling a joke and a way to form solidarity with others, according to a researcher who has actually studied why we like to cite films in social situations.
    "People are doing it to feel good about themselves, to make others laugh, to make themselves laugh," said Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University.
    Harris decided to ask hundreds of young adults about their film-quoting habits after he and his graduate students realized it was a common behavior that no one had looked at closely before.
    He found that all of the participants in his study had used movie quotes in conversation at one point or another. They overwhelmingly cited comedies, followed distantly by dramas and action adventure flicks.
    As for horror films, musicals and children's movies, "fuh-get about it." They were hardly ever cited.
    When asked about their emotions while quoting films, most people reported feeling happy.


This AM outside the hotel, in front of the WTC site on Church St., is some kind of motorcylist rally. There are a lot of Harley-looking bikes (I’m just looking out the window, I can’t tell) and a guy in a monk-outfit standing on top of a trailer announcing stuff. Finally, the manly chant of “USA! USA! USA!” has come wafting through the windows. I have no idea who these people are (and they may disperse before I make it out to find out), but it seems always interesting here.

Update: the waiter in the restaurant says that these are all people who contributed in some way to a commemoration of September 11, and are there in support/acknowledgement of that.


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